Water-based vs. oil-based deck sealant

Written by nichole liandi
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Water-based vs. oil-based deck sealant
(Deck de Madeira image by CarlosNeto from Fotolia.com)

Sealing your deck should be a regular part of your home maintenance routine. A deck that is not sealed, or whose sealant has degraded, is much more prone to damage from rain, snow and sun than a deck that has been sealed. When sealing a deck, the homeowner has a choice of two types of sealants -- oil-based, or water-based. There are advantages and disadvantages to each.

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Application and Cleanup

There's no particular difference in the application of water-based stains versus oil-based stains. Both are applied directly to the deck with a brush or roller. Cleaning up is a little different for each. Brushes used when applying water-based stains can be cleaned easily with soap and water, while oil-based staining equipment cleanup requires the use of paint thinner.


Water-based stains get the nod here. A water-based stain, properly applied needs only to be redone every five to six years. Oil-based stains don't have the same durability. Typically you'll need to redo the job every two to three years.

Environmental Effects

Water-based stains are becoming much more common than oil-based stains, in part because of environmental concerns. Oil-based stains, paints and other such materials have been linked to air pollution and they must be disposed of properly.

Drying Time

Another edge for water-based stains. They dry much more quickly. In most cases, a water-based stain is dry and ready for use in six to eight hours. Recommended drying times for oil-based stains are up to an entire day.

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